Think you know what the CAP Code applies to?

Jun 20th '19

The CAP Code doesn’t define advertising – instead it lists categories of communication and offers supplementary definitions and exclusions in the ‘Scope of the Code’.  It would be next to impossible to detail all of the types of marketing that the Code covers so the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) remit guidance is always indicative, rather than exhaustive, but here’s a brief outline of the remit of the CAP Code, with some links to further guidance.


Publications and printed material

The Code applies to third party ads, a publisher’s own ads (e.g. for ad space or subscriptions), inserts, business classified ads (but not private ones) and ‘advertorialcontent.


It also applies to other printed material such as leaflets (unless they promote a ‘cause or idea’), carrier bags, business cards, brochures and catalogues.


It does not apply to editorial material or press releases/other PR material.  It also does not apply to products themselves or their packaging (unless this includes a promotion).


Direct marketing

The Code applies to direct mailings, emails, faxes and SMS/MMS messages.  It also applies to circulars, ads sent using Bluetooth and some forms of recorded message.


It does not apply to private correspondence, material in non-paid for space which relates solely to a ‘cause or idea’ or live oral communications.



The Code applies to posters on billboards and poster sites, but not those which appear at ‘point of sale’ (unless they include a promotion or appear in space usually sold to third-party advertisers) or those that have been ‘fly posted’ (which is illegal).


It also applies to third party ads in ‘paid-for’ space in ambient media including, but not limited to, taxis and buses, petrol pumps, bus tickets, ATMs, projections onto buildings, supermarket trolleys, the reverse side of till receipts and beer mats.



The Code applies to ‘paid for’ ads on Video on Demand (VOD) platforms and those on music streaming services.  It also applies to ‘paid for’ online ads like banners, pop-ups, pre-rolls, ‘pay per click’ ads on search engines (but not the ‘natural listings’) and ‘promoted’ social media posts.  It only applies to the ‘preferential’ listings on independent price comparison websites.


It covers ‘advertorial’ content on news websites, in vlogs/blogs and in social media as well as business classified ads and ads on third party retail platforms.


It also applies to claims on a marketer’s own website and in other non-paid for space online under their control (e.g. social media, apps, ‘advergames’) if they are directly connected with the supply of goods or services, opportunities, prizes or gifts (limited exemption for ‘cause and idea’ marketing). Viral advertising is also covered by the Code.


Cinema, TV and Radio

The Code applies to cinema ads (usually pre-cleared by the Cinema Advertising Association), but not to film trailers shown in the cinema.


It does not apply to television and radio advertisements, which are subject to the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) and are usually pre-cleared by Clearcast (TV) or Radiocentre (radio).



The Code applies to affiliate marketing in whatever form this may take and to promotional marketing in non-broadcast media, including media that might not otherwise be covered by the Code.


It does not apply to official notices or information from a public authority, ‘sponsorship’, health-related claims addressed only to medical practitioners, customer charters/codes of practice or the technical aspects of financial/credit marketing which are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).


It also does not apply to marketing communications in foreign media, but there are some circumstances in which the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will take what action it can where the material targets UK consumers.


Political advertising’ where the principal function is to influence voters in a local, regional, national or international election or referendum is also exempt from the Code.


There are often shades of grey involved in remit decisions and the considerations are not always straightforward. If you’re in any doubt, the Copy Advice team can help give you a steer on whether a non-broadcast medium you’re considering is covered by the Code (for broadcast, speak to Clearcast (TV), Radiocentre (radio) or Ofcom).


Source: CAP


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